July 28th to August 2nd
For pictures taken each day, please visit the individual blog posts under “Daily Logs.”
July 28th, by AJ
We gathered at 8:30am before the hotel and then set off towards London Bridge. On our way, we stopped before a replica of The Golden Hinde as Tyler presented on it as one of his expert topics. This ship, captained by Sir Francis Drake, was the first English ship to circumnavigate the world. Originally the Pelican, Drake renamed it mid-voyage in honor of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose family crest was a golden deer. As Tyler presented on the ship, he had us sketch it as well as we could in the time allotted, and Kelly was awarded a pen for the best sketch.
Shortly after, Hannah presented on the London Bridge; it’s current iteration standing at the western end of the Pool of London and thirty meters upstream from previous alignments. The traditional ends of the medieval bridge were marked by St Magnus-the-Martyr on the northern bank and Southwark Cathedral on the southern shore. Until Putney Bridge opened in 1729, London Bridge was the only road-crossing of the Thames downstream of Kingston upon Thames. Its importance has been a common subject in popular culture, such as in the nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down”.
After the presentations, we took the 9:12am train to Brighton. We wandered The Laines, a cluster of shops, and saw a production adapted from Jane Austen’s Jane Eyre. The production tried to keep as closely to the book as it could, which might have been to its detriment in building momentum for the first third of the show. The set was quite interesting, with white, hanging fabric boxing in the stage on three sides and raised wooden platforms with stairs and ladders used abstractly as needed, as well as giving the staging of scenes physical levels. In discussion after the show, two of the performers stuck out to us. While all but two of the actors doubled, there was one who played many characters and managed to make one immediately distinct, from a dog to a small child, and that we weren’t distracted by a grown man playing these things. The second was a woman in red who never spoke but only sang. While I’m sure part of our interest was trying to figure out how she configured into the production, her performance was truly compelling, and we’d have spent as much as we just spent watching the show as we would watch her move around the stage and sing.
Before the show, we walked through the Royal Pavilion, which was thoroughly gilt and opulent. Food preparation was, apparently, taken quite seriously as I learned of a yeoman tasked with sculpting sugar. The thing I found most interesting was learning that the pavilion served as a hospital to Indian soldiers in WWI.
After the show, Mitch, Burns, Nigel, and myself went walking with the plan to meet up with Kelly and Hannah at the pier. However, we never actually ran into each other at the pier, and only met again on the train back. This was in part due to being waylaid by the sight of a woman collapsing in the park. She had obviously over-imbibed of alcohol and was in quite a state after having been soaked through by the rain, dry-heaving, and somewhat out of it. After Nigel and another woman who came over, of no relation to the drunk woman, helped the woman to a bench, the other woman got permission from her to try and contact someone on her phone to come get her. Long story short, there was no one she knew nearby. The other woman tried a few more calls while a police car happened by. Mitch tried to flag them down, but they drove past, and Nigel ran up to the car when it turned by on the other side. The police were remarkably resistant to the idea of providing aid at first; presumably because they must have thought she and a friend had been drinking and the other had gotten sick or something. Regardless, they were convinced to come over and, upon taking in the state of the woman, admitted it was a good thing Nigel had stopped them; at which point the woman passed into their care.
We then made it to the pier.
The rain may have been coming down, but it made for a phantasmagorical skyline. I bought the group some donuts and we threaded our way through the arcade passed the carousel. We walked onto the misty beach itself very briefly before realizing we needed to hurry back if we were going to catch the train we’d agreed upon taking. It being late evening by the time we got back, we all retired to the hotel.
July 29th, by Conner
Yesterday we arose, met as a group, and boarded a train to Brighton. It was about a two hour ride with a beautiful view of the English countryside. There were rolling hills, farm fields, sheep, cows, horses, and plenty of forest. Initially this sounds boring, but after so much time in a city, such sites become extremely relaxing. The fields eventually faded into the streets of the town and we arrived in Brighton. We proceeded directly to the Theatre Royal where we got our tickets for that days matinee of Jane Eyre. Further, I got a ticket for the backstage tour of the Theatre Royal before the show.
The plan was for the whole group to go to the Royal Pavilion and tour it together, so we left from the Theatre Royal, made our way across a small green part of the Royal Pavilions gardens, and found the ticket booth. We all secured entry into the Royal Pavilion, but my tour of the Theatre Royal didn’t allow me any time to to dally there. While the rest of the group proceeded to tour the Royal Pavilion, I went back to tour the theatre.
The tour started a bit late because one of their tour guides was injured and couldn’t come to work that day, but we were only delayed by about fifteen minutes. Once together we were taken out into the house where the guide told us of the renovations and additions to the theatre since its creation. We proceeded backstage where we got to see the technicians setting up for that night’s performance. Further we got to walk onstage, move about the set, and look out at the audience.
We were technically not allowed to take any photos while backstage because we were not allowed to have any photos of materials that are particular to this production, but I snuck a photo of the stage manager’s desk while no one was looking. They have a lovely little setup back there and I believe they did a very good job of using new technologies in a very old space.
July 30th, by Nigel
It was an action packed day for most of the group. The morning started slowly for most of the group, who took the chance to catch up on some sleep. A.J. and I however departed early in the morning for Soho. A.J landed tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts 1 and 2 that afternoon and needed to pick up the tickets from a small, out of the way venue. He was not the only one able to pull together tickets for the days showing, Mitch and Tyler also managed to attend! While A.J and I stumbled around Soho, the rest of the group spent their morning resting or doing homework.
After picking up the tickets for A.J we headed over to a dinner Tyler had come across to meet him Mitch, and Conner. The dinner was Ed’s Easy Burger and the food was fantastic. Most of us ordered giant burgers and shakes. It amazed me that I had to fly across the ocean to get some of the best American diner food I have ever had. You could even put money into a small juke box and select classic songs from the beach boys, Elvis, and countless others. The experience was wonderful and we all enjoyed ourselves. After lunch Conner and I dropped off the others at the Palace Theatre and made our way back to our residence. Where Burns, Kelly, and Hannah where still resting and doing various morning activities. The afternoon was primarily filled with catching up on homework for those of us back at the residence.
That evening Conner, Kelly, and I headed for the London Eye. We had express passes and where able to skip much of the line. The trip all the way around was only 30mins but it was a really fantastic experience. We all knew it was very big tourist attraction but felt we still had to experience it for ourselves or we would regret it later.
The view was absolutely splendid and we even managed to make a new friend in the pod! Her name was Mary Anne, she has from just outside Boston and was here visiting her cousin. We had a great conversation with her while taking it that fantastic views of the city. In fact, we had so much fun with her that she joined us for dinner at Doggets, which has become the groups’ favorite place to eat. The others of the group finding food individually around the residence. After dinner we departed from our new friend and called it a night back at our residence. Later A.J, Tyler, and Mitch arrived and we all enjoyed sitting around hearing about their experience. Though I will not get the chance to see the show myself I was still excited hearing about it from the others in the group, including Hannah which saw the show earlier on the trip. The day ended as it began with everyone tucked in bed resting for the next adventure around the corner.
August 1st, by Hannah
I set out with optimism and a Pret lunch for Windsor. I don’t know what I was thinking but my tube stop was no where near Windsor Castle and no idea where I was. I found another Pret to eat and regain my composure/find my correct way. Got on a bus-still got lost. Bit the bullet and got a cab to Windsor: BIG mistake! Finally got to the castle and did the audio tour: pictures below. It was beautiful and very different from the London atmosphere, maybe it’s because my morning was frustrating but I didn’t think the journey there was entirely worth it. Got smart and hopped on a train back to Southbank. Grabbed a takeaway from Cafe Nero and headed straight for the Southbank Centre to watch Romeo and Juliet the ballet. The performance wasn’t a traditional ballet. The Pas a Duex wasn’t as formal as a typical ballet is and the movement as a whole felt very contemporary. It’s difficult to explain why it was more modern if you haven’t seen a lot of ballet, I tried to describe it to others on the trip but they weren’t familiar with ballet etiquette so it probably made no sense. I loved it and it reminded me how much I miss ballet myself.
Mitch started packing for the trip home, sad face! At night he saw Phantom of the Opera-here is what he though:” It was great!!! The only problem I had with it was that it felt like some of the actors were half-assing it.” This is interesting because when Conner, Tyler and Hannah saw this they all said the same thing but they saw a different performance.
Tyler also went to see Romeo and Juliet but had a different experiences and opinion about the performance. “I like the cadence of the music compared to the thrilling nature of the show. There contrasts with the movements and content of the show—I’m not that into dance.” Earlier that day Tyler ate at the Punch and Judy pub before heading over to the Fortune Theatre to see Women in Black. “I liked it for the historical experience, but it is old and you could tell. Some of the staging and “wow” factors felt unchanged (which is natural since it was first produced like 25 years ago), but I felt the production needed to be a bit more receptive. For that reason, I didn’t enjoy it, but it was a nice experience.”
Conner did nothing all day. What he could’ve done but decided not to was go see Great Gatsby. “It was going to be a bar where everyone was dressed in 20s attire. Dancing shoes were required as you, the audience member, took the part of Gatsby’s infamously wild party guests. The actors joined in as the characters from The Great Gatsby and kept the cocktails flowing and the music swinging before and after the show. In a small little venue called Gatsby’s Drug Store the immersive show was supposed to be a “romping good time where Londoners in the know could go for an evening”.” One: he didn’t have 20’s attire and Two: he didn’t want to go alone and attempt to swing dance with a random person. This sounds amazing though and would have been a great addition for the entire group!
Ryan worked on homework, went for a walk with Kelly, AJ and Nigel then read the Falstaff book he got in Stratford-upon-Avon while sitting on a bench by the River Thames
The walk the small group of Nigel, AJ, Ryan and Kelly was a long loop of London. Kelly: We went to see Baker Street, Abbey road, we found two mice eating cheese statue in the city of London, we tried going to Hoxton to find a monster ingredients shop but it was closed, then we went back to Trafalgar square and Westminster. Ended the day visiting Buckingham palace and we walked a LOT.
August 2nd, by AJ
As the day before all of us were catching a plane, either to the States or, in one case, Ireland, we all met with Professor Schmitz individually to discuss our experience of the trip and as to what direction we were taking our final papers. I had set my alarm for early in the morning to work on some coursework, and got about halfway through it before my meeting. I managed to finish it after, but only just barely, before Nigel and Burns blasted me out of the room to eat lunch at a very serious steak restaurant.
There was a counter at the back where you could see a fellow chopping meat and, once we’d been seated, I had the perfect view into the room on the left of the counter. The wall facing out towards the restaurant was white with a red cow painted on it and, within the shoulder region on the cow, was a circular window into the room through which you could see hanging hunks of red meat.
Our server attempted to lead us through getting a meat platter and something from the Lithuanian bakery upstairs to share around the table, but we all went our own way as to our orders. Burns ordered some steak after we’d all been walked up to the counter to view two different cuts, the difference between he explained until my eyes glazed over, as he demonstrated by drawing his finger on Burns. Nigel ordered the pigeon and I, rather boringly, ordered pasta. I tried a bit of Burns’ steak when it arrived and it was, frankly, over-salted for my tastes. I much better enjoyed the bite of pigeon in wine sauce Nigel offered; the thing changing taste three times in my mouth.
By the time we were done with our meal, I needed to hurry over to The National Theatre, where I’d been lucky to snag some tickets to Mosquitos. Mosquitos is a bleak play about future hope. One of two sisters, Jenny, looks things up on the internet and doesn’t have her life together. Alice, the other sister, is a brilliant scientist working on the Hadron Collider to find the Higgs Boson. Their mother is an even more brilliant scientist whose body and mind are beginning to go with age. Alice’s son is a brilliant, miserable teenager. Alice’s husband was a scientist with mental problems who walked out on the family randomly one day, never to be seen again.
The missing scientist also adds another narrative layer to the story as a narrator of sorts who comes onstage to talk about the ways the universe could end. The staging is in the round and fairly minimalistic, usually involving a few chairs or a crate at one point. The scientist narrator’s interludes transform the stage, however, as it’s lit in psychedelic, pulsating, universal patterns as a circular object that’s part of the stage resembling a lense rises and falls during his monologues.
On my walk back from The National, I ran into Hannah and Connor. Hannah, Connor, and Kelly had gone to a tea room while I was at the play, and just the two had gone on to the theater to purchase books and DVDs at its shop; something I’d meant to do and forgotten due to how deep in thought I was over the play I’d seen. While they went on, I went back to the theater for a lengthy perusal and, on my way back, had to alter my course back to the hotel again to meet up for a final group dinner at Doggett’s. All of us were there, including Professor Schmitz, but for Mitch and Tyler, who were in a performance of Les Miserables.
After dinner, we all retired to the hotel, where Nigel, Burns, and I got to packing and weighing our luggage to prepare for the plane trip tomorrow. After, I worked on finishing up more coursework before sleeping.
After the backstage tour I went outside in search of lunch. Just a few steps down the road was a place called Polpo. I had a pizza their and by time I was finished it was time to meet again for Jane Eyre. I will leave the show review for another document, but I think it was a fantastic production. However, after we got out the Royal Pavilion was closed. The doors were all shut and the place was dark, so it seemed I had missed my chance that day.
Instead, we went to the pier. In spite of the fact that it was raining, we had a good time walking along the pier, seeing the attractions, and stopping at a gelato place. We went and played on the beach for a bit, took turns touching the Atlantic Ocean, and eventually decided we had meandered long enough. We proceeded from their back to the train station and headed for home.